In April 2017, four members of our team visited Nairobi, Kenya for a 200-hour Baptiste Yoga teacher training and observation of Africa Yoga Project‘s Shine Center. Through this cultural exchange opportunity, we learned about the tools used in the slums of Nairobi that could transfer to our own communities in Chicago. Our After School Program Coordinator, J, shares his reflections on the experience:

What did you learn about yoga, healing, and economic empowerment during this training?

J: I learned that at first I doubted myself and didn’t want to give my full effort cause I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone and then when I did give my all my mind kept pushing but my body couldn’t. I learned that sometimes we have to pace ourselves through the process and get back to our limits then when we’re there we can push ourselves but not to much just bit by bit. Don’t rush the process.

What was your favorite part of the trip to Kenya?

J: My favorite part of Kenya was getting to meet so many people from different walks of life, just everyone getting along wanting to meet each other and with smiles I loved it. Hearing everyone stories when we got a chance to speak just opened me up and made me feel like I’m not alone. I came with a mask on hiding my pain but in the end, I removed the mask and I felt better.

How did this experience impact your own life?

J: This experience impacted my life because it taught me not to rush everything in life. I learned how to breathe better when doing yoga and I learned not to rush the process. When finally breathing slower I can move my body a little bit better into a pose. I learned from my teachers how to work with my students to position them better and easier for them to do a pose. I got to also meet my motherland family and got the experience of knowing and understanding a little bit about our history and the different tribes.

How will you apply what you learned to your work in the Englewood community?

J: I will apply what I learned in the Englewood community by teaching it to my students in my after-school programs, schools and summer camp. I will combine my yoga with dancing and build a fun way to do yoga that everyone even the kids can do without feeling left out. I will teach others how to calm themselves and just relax from life and situations. And when they go back in whatever they are doing they can go back in with a clear head.

What is your hope for the future of I Grow Chicago and Africa Yoga Project’s partnership?

J: My hope for the future of I Grow Chicago and Africa Yoga Project’s partnership is to build a yoga family where we can travel and meet each other to tell how we use our yoga in our everyday life and how we teach others yoga. I want to teach my friends back at Africa Yoga Project how I teach dance yoga and I want to learn tai chi yoga. I’m just ready to learn something new from one of our friends.